How food effects mood in children – Dietary solutions for how food and nutrition effects the moods, behavior, and even learning in children of all ages.
The number of children who struggle with poor moods due to diet is rising significantly. They may be struggling with mood, behavior and learning issues. They may already be diagnosed with a learning disability or one of the Four A Disorders: Asthma, Allergies, Autism and ADHD. These children are quite sensitive to many hidden factors that are contributing to their dysfunction in mood, behavior and ability to learn. Potential External hidden factors like toxins come in many forms: Air (pollution, artificial scents), Water (Heavy metals, fluoride, chlorine), Plastics (carcinogens like BPA), Pharmaceuticals (vaccines), and Household products (shampoo, cleaning products).
How food effects mood. Food can impact our mood, learning, and behavior in many ways. Mood-regulating neurotransmitter receptors are found in the digestive tract as well as the brain. Sadness, disappointment and meltdowns can all be signs of depletions in the neurotransmitter Serotonin. The serotonin receptors in the gut are often blocked by yeast overgrowth, which thrives on flours and sugars. So although we may think giving a child a lollipop will make them happy, it will likely contribute to a state of sadness somewhere along the way.
The nutrients in whole foods dictate the health and function of the gut and brain. For example, it is widely known these days that Essential Fatty Acids (i.e. ALA, EPA, DHA) found in fish oils are significant in the development of the immune system of infants, in decreasing mental issues like ADHD and depression, in reducing learning disabilities, and in reducing risks of coronary heart disease and cancer. In order for the body to properly absorb and utilize these EFAs, however, one must also ingest certain vitamins like A, C, E and some B vitamins (without also ingesting sugars, which can counteract the proper utilization of EFAs). Most foods, however, in the standard American diet these days have tons of sugar, have little to no nutritional value and are referred to by Michael Pollen in his book In Defense of Food as “Food-Like Substances”. These “foods” typically lack vital minerals and vitamins that provide balance in the brain and gut. Deficiencies in magnesium, for example, can manifest as anxiety, ADHD, muscle tension, teeth grinding, fidgeting, and racing thoughts.
A large number of professionals and parents in this country have joined together with the Feingold Association (www.feingold.org) to support families in finding food and products without chemicals. Dr. Feingold was an allergist who is known for his work with salicylates. He discovered that this naturally occurring compound found in many fruits and vegetables can cause an excitotoxic effect on the brains of some children causing ADHD-like symptoms. Children with salicylates sensitivities can nearly eliminate these ADHD symptoms when they follow a strict salicylate-free diet. Many parents never suspect that these healthy foods (i.e. apples, almonds, grapes/raisins, tomatoes, citrus) are contributing to their child’s inattention, fidgeting, and argumentative nature. For a more complete list of foods containing salicylates please visit http://www.feingold.org/.
Feeding our children whole and nutritious foods, the way nature intended, is vital to the development of healthy neurological, gastrointestinal and immune function. Without this proper nutrition, we may see one or more of the following issues:
How Food Effects Mood
- Low frustration tolerance
- Sad / Lethargic
- Takes things personally
- Easily angered or offended
- Alternating highs & lows
- Overly silly/goofy (can’t get serious)
- Unsatisfied most of the time
- Emotional meltdowns
How Food Effects Mood – Behavior
- Difficult eater
- Lethargic / Tires easily
- Sleep is restless (maybe teeth grinding or snoring)
- Refusal to cooperate
- Difficulty listening
- Need to be told things repeatedly
How Food Effects Mood – Learning
- Developmental delays (speech, toileting, fine motor)
- Lacks interest in learning basics (letters/sounds, shapes/colors)
- Struggles with comprehension
- Difficulty sitting down & focusing on task
- Easily frustrated with challenges
- Needs a lot of repetition to fully learn
Heightening our awareness to these hidden factors in our children’s mood, behavior and learning and beginning to take baby steps towards decreasing their exposure to these External and Internal factors is a journey. Parents need information, patience (with their child and themselves), and support from others who are on the same journey. Society at large is already on the journey with “greener” products down every shopping isle and learning more about how food effects mood every day.
Originally posted in 2009.
Mental Fitness Center is located in downtown Rochester at 425 Main Street Suite #201, 248-601-3111, www.mentalfitnesscenter.org. Contact them for more tips on how food effects mood!